December 11, 2007

December 11, 2007

Things are seriously ticking in the Fillmore. Opening this Friday is the ~SUNDANCE CINEMAS KABUKI~ in Japantown. The multi-level project will include a cheese and wine bar, with a wine list from Courtney Cochran of Hip Tastes. Cochran tells me indie films inspired the 100-strong selections: they’re small production, handmade wines with a dash of flair (you know, a little quirk, like an indie flick!). There will be an adventurous list of 25 wines available by the glass at the wine bar (which you can take into the theaters), and all 100 selections will be offered in the 130-seat restaurant next door, Kabuki Kitchen. So, about the restaurant: executive chef Vince Schofield, who has worked at Boulevard and traveled and studied in Italy, has put together a totally revamped menu of New American-Mediterranean fare. A preliminary menu includes some SF classics, like a Little Gem salad with Green Goddess dressing, and Dungeness cioppino, along with small plates like shaved squash salad with a poached egg; Coca-Cola pork ribs; and house-made chorizo with fried garbanzo beans and tomatoes in a garlic paprika broth. Larger plates may include a roasted game hen with sausage and spinach hash; pan-seared pork chop al pastor; grilled sea bass; plus pastas; pizza; and a burger made from Niman Ranch beef. The urban casual look features a lot of steel, neutral colors, and there’s a counter overlooking an open kitchen. Open 5pm–10pm nightly.

There’s also a bistro, with both wine and vittles available, like pizzas, make-your-own cheese plates, panini (spicy coppa, ham, and provolone panino, here I come!), etc., plus a full-service 21-and-over bar, offering high-end spirits and more bites; the bar is made from reclaimed wood, and there is also a woven carpet, and cool lighting. For the record, you don’t have to have a movie ticket to visit the bistro or bar. Oh, and sweet detail: you can reserve your seats in advance in the eight-screen theater. This place is seriously going to become an all-in-one date destination. 1881 Post St. at Fillmore.

A bit further up the street, I know many have been wondering what was moving into the ~FILLMORE GRILL~ space. I had to sit tight with the news for months, but can now release some preliminary info: Come March 1, ~THE LONG BAR AND BISTRO~ will be opening in its place. The owner is Alan Walsh, who is starting a new era of Irish ownership of the restaurant; he has worked as a bartender at Campton Place, Pebble Beach, and the Park Hyatt. The Fillmore Grill has been closed since March 31, but due to legal issues, the project hit some snags and delays—now things are on track. The Long Bar will be a classic establishment, with a look inspired by old-school hotel bars. The mahogany bar is 30 feet long, and there will be dark woods, rich colors, three fans suspended from the tall 17-foot ceilings, plus there will be outdoor seating under heated awnings. There will also be high-top tables close to the front windows, ideal for cocktails or a bite, along with tables along the length of the room, and booths in the back for more formal dining. The walls will be padded for noise abatement in the 80-seat room, the bathrooms are being remodeled, and painting begins soon. I’ll release more info about the dining style and chef when I’m given clearance. Look for dinner to start, with early hours for the bar. 1301 Fillmore St. at Clay.

Yo vegans and vegetarians: Here’s a new place to potentially add to your roster! I got a notice about a recent restaurant opening, ~ALL ABOUT HERBS~, a vegetarian restaurant that opened near Union Square. (No, it’s not your latest pot club.) The restaurant shares the Paris Café space (although there are two separate kitchens), and according to the email I received, “specializes in contemporary Asian fusion vegetarian and vegan cuisine. All dishes are created just to order, blending the freshest local ingredients with traditional spices to create delicious and healthy vegetarian meals… Our cuisine is influenced by the flavors and styles across Southeast Asia and all of our dishes are completely animal-free.” Some dishes on the menu include a spicy lemongrass salad; laab made with tofu, roasted ground rice, dry chili, mint, shallots, and fresh lime; a few soups including a five-spice soup with egg and shiitakes; and a red curry (with no fake meats). Let me know if someone has checked it out! Open for dinner Mon–Sat 5:30pm–10pm. 704 Post St. at Jones, 415-292-6856.

GraceAnn Walden had the (sad) scoop that Roy Fong’s original ~IMPERIAL TEA COURT~ in Chinatown is closing by year’s end. You can still visit the Ferry Building Marketplace and Berkeley locations. 1411 Powell St. at Broadway, 415-788-6080.

~MONK’S KETTLE~, the new beer and wine tavern in the Mission, was originally hoping to open tomorrow, Wednesday, but that’s not looking likely. So, when will you be admiring a nice pour? “Soon” is the best we have right now. Will let you know next week if it opened! 3141 16th St., at the corner of Albion, between Valencia and Guerrero, 415-865-9523.

Also in the Mission, ~CAVA22~ opened in the former (and somewhat cursed, but let’s change that) Bahia Restaurant space. Look for Spanish-French-Latino tapas from chef Roman Beltran, whose kitchen history includes COCO500, Dry Creek Kitchen, and Splendido. There is also a full bar, with fifty-plus tequilas (look for even more handcrafted tequilas to come). The exterior is nicely spruced up, with chocolate and gold, and the interior has high ceilings, rustic wood tables, and warm tones of burgundy and dark chocolate; there will also be rotating art, with the first reception on January 14. Owners are Ramon Valle, his brother Samuel Valle, and Roger Magaña. Hours are Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10pm, and until 11pm Fri–Sat, with brunch 10am–3pm Sat–Sun. The bar is open later Thu–Sat. 3239 22nd St. between Bartlett and Mission, 415-642-7224.

Another Mission spot that just had its soft opening last Friday is ~BOLLYHOOD CAFÉ~, a relative to Bissap Baobab, and just next-door to Little Baobab. The menu offers a contemporary spin on regional Indian street food—many dishes are vegetarian (and affordable, yay), and ingredients will be organic and local whenever possible. The chef is Roger Feely, who has experience at Citizen Cake and a year of cooking, teaching, and traveling in India under his belt. The 49-seat restaurant is designed to be a modern space with a cinematic element (movies will either be played in the background, or expect upcoming viewings), and a sensibility that is inclusive and playful, dabbling with Southeast Asian/Indian, European, and American cultures. Partners are Ivan Jaigirdar, Marco Senghor, Andrea Pezzano, and Gianmaria “Giamma” Clerici. Look for brunch kicking in soon, and they also have a special New Year’s Eve event, with all three spaces open (Bollywood, Bissap Baobab, and Little Baobab) for food, dancing, live performances, and drinks ($42). Open Tue–Sat 5pm–midnight. 3372 19th St. at Mission, 415-970-0632.

~SERPENTINE~ opened yesterday in Dogpatch! The delicious-sounding lunch menu from Chris Kronner includes sandwiches like pulled pork with egg and cheddar; a Prather Ranch hamburger; chicken pot pie; and savory bread pudding made with king trumpet mushrooms, fennel, Emmenthaler, greens, and roasted baby carrots (does that sound freaking incredible or what?). For dinner there is Chantenay carrot soup; small plates of crispy oysters; rabbit liver pate; braised buffalo short ribs with Anson Mills stone cut oats, grilled persimmon, and erbette chard; roasted rabbit leg with brown butter nettles and spaetzle; and seared black cod with sunchoke and parsnip chowder. The mains are affordable: $24.50 is the most expensive item, for the Marin Sun Farms flat iron steak. Lunch is served Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30 pm, and dinner Tue–Sat beginning at 6pm. 2495 Third St. at 22nd, 415-252-2000.

~LOCAL KITCHEN AND WINE MERCHANT~ is slated to open for dinner this Wednesday, December 12, but remember, opening dates can shift, just like plate tectonics. 330 First St. at Folsom, 415-777-4200.

Heard word that ~FIFTH FLOOR~ is closing on January 21 for the remodel, and is slated to reopen in mid-February. Expect new floors and furniture, and of course that new menu no one from Aqua is ready to reveal yet. In the meantime, chef Jennie Lorenzo has her pre-renovation menu in place, reportedly offering classic and good staple dishes. 12 4th St. at Stevenson, 415-348-1555.

So even though this project is waaaaaaaaay off (think 2009), it ends up the rumor I heard was true: Michael Mina and Rajat Parr are launching a wine bar and restaurant in the ground floor of the 58-story Millennium Tower in SOMA. It will be called ~RN74~ (named after Route National 74, the thoroughfare that passes through France’s Burgundy region)—similar to A16’s freeway inspiration. Groovy New York firm AvroKo will be designing it—I looooooove the spaces they have done in NYC (Monday Room, Stanton Social, EU, Public). Yes, the wine list will be fat, with a plan to offer 50 wines by the glass through an enomatic machine (like Vino Venue’s). The affordable menu remains TBD, but there are plans to take some elements from regional French cuisine. Stay tuned for more in coming months. 301 Mission St. at Beale.

Feel like experiencing some bites of Ron Siegel’s delish cuisine, but can’t afford the Dining Room tasting menu prices? You can swing by the ~RITZ LOBBY LOUNGE~ from 6pm–9:30pm for finger foods like crispy chicken wings ($11), plates to share like bay scallops with leeks and a carrot reduction ($21), and larger plates, like a creamy risotto ($25). There is also fab sushi available Tue–Sat 5:30pm–9pm. 600 Stockton St. at California.

There are now more late-night dining options in the NOPA ‘hood: ~POLENG LOUNGE~ will go back to their original late hours, and will have the kitchen open until 1am Sun–Thu (just remember it’s closed Mondays). Nice! 1751 Fulton St. at Masonic, 415-441-1751.

So, let’s do some holiday chitchat. ‘Tis the season, yo. I was happy to see this first blog posting from chef ~TRACI DES JARDINS~ on the Epicurious Epi Log about holiday entertaining—no surprise she’s a girl after my own heart: she suggests stockpiling Champagne, caviar, cheese, and charcuterie at home. And gougères in the freezer. You really don’t need to leave home if you follow her advice.

Throwing a party of your own? Here are a couple fab punch recipes I got from Imbibe! author David Wondrich. And no, these are not just for you to mix up for a quiet night at home by yourself.

Rocky Mountain Punch
(Serves 20)
5 bottles of Champagne
1 quart dark rum
1 pint maraschino
6 lemons sliced,
Sugar (superfine) to taste

(Some liquor recommendations from Dave: Perrier Jouet Champagne, Goslings or Lemon Hart Rum)

Mix the above ingredients in a large punch-bowl, then place in the center of the bowl a large block of ice (can be made by freezing a gallon bowl full of water the night before), ornamented on top with sliced lemons or oranges and fruits in season.

Iced Monongahela Punch
(Serves 16)
The day before you'll be making your punch, make a block of ice by placing a quart bowl full of water in the freezer.
For the punch: Peel six lemons with a vegetable peeler. In a large bowl, muddle the peels together with 1 cup superfine sugar until the sugar is infused with the lemon oil. Juice the lemons and strain the juice into the bowl. Add 1 quart water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove lemon peels with a slotted spoon. Add 1 bottle Wild Turkey 101 rye or bourbon and 2 ounces dark, full-bodied rum, such as Gosling's Black Seal or Lemon Hart Rum.
Slice two lemons into thin wheels, float them in the bowl, slide in your block of ice and serve. If you wish, you may grate nutmeg over the top (do not use the pre-grated kind).

So one major perk to being a food writer is exposure to all kinds of great products, and the people who make them. I thought I’d put together a little list of ~TEN GIFT IDEAS~ based on some of the groovy things I have tasted, drank, read, and encountered this past year, many of them local, because it’s good to support your local talents and businesses.

1. Last week I just tasted the new line of ~INFUSED PASSOT TROUT ROE CAVIAR~ from Tsar Nicoulai made in conjunction with chef Roland Passot. There is a vanilla, Kaffir lime, or brandy flavor, all three totally lending themselves to delicious food pairings. I liked the spark of the lime, but of course the brandy totally won me over.

2. For the gourmand who has everything, how about some ~COLATURA DI ALICI~ from Manicaretti? This fabulous little Campanian potion is a descendent of garum, extracted during the anchovy curing process: cleaned anchovies are layered with salt in plastic tubs and left to cure for around five months. It’s like an intense and pure Italian spin on fish sauce, and I loved it on my Shanghai bok choy with garlic and red pepper—can’t wait to top some pasta with it. You can get it at The Pasta Shop and online at—here’s a link to an article and recipe from Melissa Clark if you want to read more.

3. One of my favorite games to play with friends is “what would your last meal be?” (If you’re curious, here’s a link to what my last meal in San Francisco would be.) It felt like destiny when I won Melanie Dunea's book, ~MY LAST SUPPER: 50 GREAT CHEFS AND THEIR FINAL MEALS~ at the recent Anthony Bourdain dinner (yes, it’s signed by Tony). Perfect book for a globetrotting gourmand.

4. For the meat lover/salumi lover in your life, get them a subscription to ~MEATPAPER~, because as I was quoted saying in their media kit, “Meat is the new black.”

5. Of course I have to include some bubbles! Upon two sips I was smitten with the fruity and flirty ~BRUT ROSÈ CUVÈE DE LA POMPADOUR~ from Domaine Carneros. Gorgeous for $36. Hmmmm, I need to get some more for New Year’s Eve!

6. Need to bring a good host/hostess gift to a party? Have you ever tasted ~MEYER FAMILY PORT~? As a little package I received in the mail fully attested, it’s great paired with some Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese and Red Barn Chandler Walnuts. Heck, buy an extra trio of these goodies for yourself and call it a party!

7. I’m a bourbon girl through and through, but I was very impressed with the quality and flavor of ~SWAN’S NECK VODKA~, especially the lemon zest one, made from grapes grown on French vineyards and distilled in copper alembics. Here’s where you can buy it around town.

8. I heart cookies. I know, who doesn’t? If you don’t have time to make some sugar cookies, check out the goods from Laura Mandracchia, who has been a pastry chef at restaurants around town like Circa and Fog City Diner, and has a baking company called ~LITTLE LAURA’S SWEETS~. Her cookies rock, especially the oatmeal raisin—and I’m not even a fan of raisins. (Yup, one of the very few things on this earth I don’t like to eat.)

9. For those into San Francisco history, why not buy a gift certificate for one of ~GRACE ANN WALDEN’S GOURMET WALKING TOURS~? She holds them in North Beach, Nob Hill, or Chinatown, or there’s the Food Lover’s Tour, which will take you all over the city.

10. This year I wrote an article on local restaurants who make their own hot sauces for San Francisco magazine, and I’ll be damned if I don’t reach for my bottle of ~YOUK’S HOT SAUCE~ at least five times a week. It’s handmade and bottled by Maverick’s executive chef Scott Youkilis. I adore this stuff—it’s made from Hungarian wax peppers, and retails for $10. You can get it at Maverick, through the website, or at Avedano’s on Cortland Avenue.

Looking for a place for a holiday lunch? A couple more places are adding holiday lunch service around town: chef Robbie Lewis at ~BACAR~ is cookin’ up lunch every Friday at 11:30am–2pm, and for the holidays bacar will open for lunch on Thursday, December 13, and December 20. The new lunch menu includes the SOMA chopped salad with hearts of romaine, smoked bacon, chopped eggs, radish, cucumber, and avocado vinaigrette; a classic Reuben; and an open-faced crispy trout sandwich.

~LE COLONIAL~ is open for lunch on Friday December 14 and 21, offering selections from chef Joseph Villanueva's French Vietnamese menu (from 11:30am–2pm).

Oh, and be aware the holiday ~RESTAURANT SCAM~ continues, with the fake group booking and cash advance mumbo jumbo. Here’s an example of a letter sent to South:

Hello Dear,

I am Dr Adams Owen ,the director of Abbey Business center in Glasgow Scotland .I want to book dinner for my group of workers arriving from Scotland.They will all come for dinner in your place on 18th,19th and 20th Dec, 2007 by 7:00pm each day. They are are 15 in number.Get back with your response if there is availability in your restaurant.

Best Regards,
Glasgow . Scotland

Got nothing to do tomorrow night? On Wednesday, December 12, Maverick is featuring the Carneros institution, Havens Vineyards, and winegrower/owner Michael Havens for a ~WINEMAKER DINNER~. It’s $72 per person (tax and gratuity not included), and includes a four-course dinner prepared by executive chef Scott Youkilis, along with wine pairings. A vegetarian four-course option will also be available. Seatings are available between 6pm–10pm. For reservations, call 415-863-3061.